Today we will talk about Muscle Soreness. What Is Muscle Soreness? I am sure you have experienced sitting down taking you 3-5 seconds instead of 1 second or you cannot even straighten your arms for the first time in your life after a workout. This is commonly known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness(DOMS). It is so far classified as a phenomenon by scientists. In simple terms, it means muscles are being damaged and inflammation is going on inside the cells. That is also another reason you feel pumped or ‘bigger’ for 3-4 days for that muscle group due to the inflammation. After which, homeostasis begins.
Does Muscle Soreness = Muscle Growth? This is an old school of thought and will always be till the end of time. The answer is Yes and No. From the internet, it always says feeling no soreness doesn’t mean no muscle gains. From my experience however, I would say soreness=muscle gains to a certain extent. My lagging parts of my body, I seldom feel the DOMS while the strong parts of my body are always sore after training. Comparing my old photos and thinking how sore it was back then after each training made me agree that muscle soreness = muscle growth to a certain extent. I have been observing over the years and here, I am talking about Hypertrophy, not just lifting weights. You need to damage muscles to create bigger cells, thus Hypertrophy occurs. When muscle fibres are damaged, they become stronger and tougher than before. That is how muscles grow bigger overtime.
If you are just a sedentary human being, working out to keep fit, that doesn’t mean you have to train until failure to obtain that soreness. That is absolutely no brainer. You will never know how sore you will be the next day. If you are a fitness enthusiast, hit your weights hard!
How Do I Get DOMS? There are many ways DOMS can happen to your body. A very simple way is doing a movement, stretch, exercise which you never do in your entire life for an extended amount of time, you will get DOMS. This means that you did something which your body’s threshold has been challenged. Other situations would be when your rest time is being shortened, your work time is being lengthened, weights is being increased like never before and of course, how fierce and intense your workout is, all these factors contribute to muscle soreness. Let me give you an example: There was one time I did 1000 pushups and 300 pull-ups in one day, my DOMS was inexplicable and beyond imagination. There was another time, I ran for almost 2 hours non-stop too. DOMS was absolutely crazy. You can try that- lol.
DOMS usually hits you 12-36hrs after your last workout. Reason being is really unknown. No studies on that yet.
How Can DOMS Affect Me? DOMS can affect your daily life such as walking speed(legs soreness), swinging of arms while walking(arms soreness), lifting up of shoulders(shoulder soreness) etc. From my experience, if your food intake is not right, the healing process slows down a lot.
How Long Does DOMS Takes To Go Back To Normal? DOMS takes from 1 day to 7 days to recover based on individuals. Generally, it takes 3-4 days for the soreness to be gone. Everyone’s recovery rate is different due to their lifestyle, nutrition and Sleep. The larger the muscle group, the longer it takes to repairs. The longest and most painful DOMS I have ever experienced was exactly 7 days. It was the legs of course.
Are There Ways To Recover From DOMS? A lot of people are foam rolling nowadays whenever their muscles are sore. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are very sore and don’t know how to apply pressure to it as this will make the soreness worse. See, it is all common sense. You have already damaged your muscles and when you foam roll too hard, it actually damages the muscle cells more if the pressure is not being applied correctly. Hence, basic stretching is good enough for beginners. However, there is no harm trying to foam roll it. Keep doing until you get the right pressure onto your sore muscles.
From my experience, if you get DOMS, you got to intake a whole lot of nutrient dense food. Nutrient dense food would be like beef, chicken, fish, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. The speed of recovery will be much faster. I did several experiments years ago to confirm the latter statement. I did a same workout 1x a week, for 2 weeks but i ate differently for a week, the results were astonishingly amazing. The week where I ate junk food with very low protein but high carbs and fats, I feel sloppy and recovery rate was really slow. Another week, I ate very high protein, moderate carbs and low/high fat, the recovery rate was very fast. Experiment and see what works for you.
Another way is swimming. Throughout my bodybuilding life, I find swimming the best therapy for recovering from muscle soreness. The resistance within water forces a lot of muscles to be activated and hence, swimming ‘lightly’ stretched these sore muscles.
Will Supplements Or Other Herbs Help In Recovery? There are many supplements and research saying that can help to reduce soreness but in my opinion, real, solid food are still the best. Stop spending so much on these supplements to ‘cure’ your soreness. I have tried all supplements and herbs and honestly, it is really very difficult to rate how sore a muscle is. A sore is a sore. To what degree it is sore, it is very difficult to even describe.
What Can I Learn From DOMS? DOMS is the best time for you to learn where exactly your muscles are located and how it feels when being activated. This is the best time to flex them lightly and feel them. Do not fear to lightly stretch it. As recommended from a strength training book- when sore, do 2 sets of very light weighted exercise and I have been doing it since then. As it is sored, it helped to improve neuromuscular connection. This way, you can further activate that particular muscle in future. It is particularly good for weak body parts.
Can I Prevent DOMS? Our mood, energy, how much do you push for workout and training intensity varies everyday. Also, it depends on how your body adapts to the kind of training you are doing. I don’t think there is a way to prevent DOMS. I do not like the idea that stretching before and after will reduce your DOMS the next day. I only agree to a certain extent. We all have been reading that for the entire life, didn’t we? I can only agree that static/dynamic stretches improve your performance during training/workout.
Should I Go To The Gym If I Have Muscle Soreness? You will know how sore you are the first thing you wake up in the morning. The feeling is really like- Got knocked down by a Lorry. You still can go to the gym to work on other body parts which are not sore. If your training is Crossfit, circuit-training or any program which involves your whole body, you might want to take a day off if your whole body is really sore. Bodybuilding style(2 major muscle group and 1 minor muscle or 1 major and minor muscle group), just stick to two-day splits, you will be fine.
Lastly, let me introduce you a serious health problem, Rhabdomyolysis, also known as (rhabdo). I am sure Crossfitters know the latter term. It is dead muscle fibres inside your body, releasing its contents into your blood, which can cause complications to your health. You can google and read up more on that. Side note, I have no hard feelings against Crossfit. In fact, as a Bodybuilder, aside from Crossfit complexity and technical liftings, I love the idea of Crossfit; I loves the amount of volume and intensity. I actually introduced Crossfit to my wife and she is actually love it so much. She is currently training at CrossFit Statera. Check out this awesome crossfit gym.
How Do You Know If You Get Rhabdo? The chances are really small unless you do an exact same training program like eg. 1000reps squats for 10 sets with the same intensity every single day. However, reading from sources, the chances of getting Rhabdomyolysis is extremely rare. Symptoms would be: cannot even bend your arm, pee is literally brown.
What Should I Do Now After Reading DOMS? I am glad that you spent 5 minutes of your time reading these precious information typed by me to you. Now, embrace the soreness and keep training hard to achieve what you have been dreaming. Move on life when the soreness sets in. Take DOMS as part of your life. No, Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Walk, move a little slower for a few days.
You’ll be fine.
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Your Fitness Coach, Amirrudin Ong